South Africa’s New Podiatry Graduates

Today I managed to survive my day in the practice, but I am amazed at the number of times that I had to twist and turn my back just to perform my daily tasks. But it was good to remember to turn my whole body, use the full support of my chair plus the variety of positions available in the patients’ treatment couch. I am definitely going to look after my back from now on.

Hopefully the 10 new podiatry graduates of the University of Johannesburg will do the same as they commence their careers. This afternoon I attended the ceremony at the University where the newly graduated podiatrists swore the Hippocratic Oath as recognition of the completion of their studies and the commencement of their careers.

This is the first time that this has been done in South Africa and although a small event it was a very significant moment for the graduates and I believe the podiatry profession in South Africa. In the academic field this has been a bad year for podiatry and the University of Johannesburg is engaged in revitalising the BTech Degree with new staff and renewed enthusiasm for 2008.( Some might say desperation as I have been accepted as a part-time lecturer for 2008!).

Goodness knows where these new colleagues will find work, but some of them have bursary commitments, so the State will have to place them somewhere. It really is a disgrace that there is such neglect by the State in recognising the role and status of the podiatrist as a member of the health team. In some regions there are good posts while in others they don’t even know what a podiatrist is.This means that most graduates are forced into private practice immediately, an expensive option that is not usually possible for them, so they end up working part-time in shoe shops, for other podiatrists, emigrating or even leaving the profession.

The podiatrist doesn’t feature much in some South African cultures, so it is up to the profession to become much more visible (dare I say aggressive in marketting itself to the public).  The role in the management of chronic disease is quite well established, as it is in sports. But there is a massive and unmet need in Occupational Health for example. How many people are suffering foot discomfort that distracts them from efficiently operating machinery or standing and walking in their safety footwear?

The solution lies with the podiatrists themselves – we must research and then write and publish our findings for scientific scrutiny. Discussion amongst the podiatrists will also give birth to more evedence based practice as well as best practice based on experience.

Certainly my hope is that these new graduates will find a meaningful place in the South African health community and be – proudly podiatrists!


Andrew has taught at the University as well as providing podiatry services in South Africa since 1977. Twice chair of the Podiatry Association of South Africa and a commentator on care of your feet on both radio and television he now works in private practice in Cape Town and Hout Bay.

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